Public health initiatives in Europe should focus on vaccinating all girls against human papillomavirus, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said Wednesday. While 19 of 29 nations in the region have rolled out an HPV vaccine program, rates of uptake in some are as low as 17 percent, the European Union health agency said.
In 2010, an HPV vaccine coverage rate above 80 percent among girls ages 10-14 was achieved only in Portugal and Britain, the agency reported. Studies have proven the shots are safe, effective, and cost-effective.
“We public health authorities, frontline health care workers, and parents alike have a shared responsibility to protect thousands of women from cervical cancer,” said Marc Sprenger, ECDC’s director. “European countries may need to examine why HPV vaccination coverage rates ... are not higher and strengthen their vaccination campaigns accordingly.”
With an adequate coverage rate, the need for cervical screening later in life could be reduced, according to a study of the Cervarix vaccine published last year. The Gardasil HPV vaccine - which targets the same two HPV types linked to cervical cancer, but adds protection against two additional types that cause most genital warts - also is available in Europe.
ECDC said its recommendations do not yet include young men in HPV vaccination programs. “The personal benefit of the vaccine for men in terms of cancer prevention is very low,” it said. “Including boys in the current HPV vaccination programs is unlikely to be cost-effective.”